Defeat in Devon for the Canaries

Tiverton Town 2 Hitchin Town 1 NEIL JENSEN Reports TWO goals in a mad four-minute spell cost Hitchin dear at Tiverton and sent the Canaries to their first opening day defeat since they joined the Southern League. Until that point, Darren Salton s claim th

Tiverton Town 2

Hitchin Town 1

NEIL JENSEN Reports

TWO goals in a mad four-minute spell cost Hitchin dear at Tiverton and sent the Canaries to their first opening day defeat since they joined the Southern League.

Until that point, Darren Salton's claim that his side would at least make the play-offs was looking good.

Hitchin went in at the interval a goal ahead and the home side were clearly struggling to trouble their goal.

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Defeat, although a bitter pill to swallow, failed to dampen Hitchin's enthusiasm for the new season and Salton was still muttering "injustice" that his charges did not return home with at least a point.

Even the home supporters, charitable in victory, felt Hitchin were worthy of a draw. But the Tiverton manager, Martyn Rogers, who has been in the Ladysmead dugout since 1992, pulled off a master stroke at half-time, making a double substitution that changed the game.

Hitchin had taken a 19th minute lead with a bit of up-and-under football.

New goalkeeper Paul Taylor's long clearance reached the edge of the Tiverton six-yard box, bounced invitingly and Wayne Mills, the smallest - and on the day most industrious - player on the pitch, sent his header over goalkeeper Mark Rock.

Hitchin had more chances to score and the best fell to Mills once more.

Mark Ducket's free-kick was parried by Rock and Mills followed up but saw his shot saved.

After the break, Tiverton's rejuvenated side was reprieved when Chris Dillon missed a good chance after being set up by Neil Pugh.

This, along with the double substitutions, proved to be the turning point.

Salton was furious that Tiverton's Barry McConnell was allowed the space to head his side level after 53 minutes.

But the Hitchin defence opened up again three minutes later when Chris Bale shot firmly home from the edge of the area.

From a winning position, Hitchin were now behind and chasing the game.

They made a good fist of it, pushing forward at every opportunity. Daniel French and Ducket both tried to exploit the flank but in the heart of the Tiverton defence, the uncompromising Nathan Rudge gave no quarter.

Dillon came in for some rough treatment throughout the game but in the closing stages, he should have had a least one goal. Pugh and French had chances to score before a string of opportunities came Dillon's way.

On one occasion, he raced to the byline and shot across the face of goal - a delicate touch was all that was needed to send the ball into the net but nobody was there. Then a header from Ducket's cross was saved by Rock as time ran out.

This may have been a disappointing result but as performances go, this will not be the worst display Hitchin put in during the coming months.

And as the old cliché goes, they will play worse and win.

These were the only consolations as the Hitchin party rolled back into town at 10.30pm.

Canaries: Taylor, Cretton (Hayes 85), Ducket, Hammonds, Folds, Deeney, Pugh, Ross, Dillon, Mills, French.

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